On Masaaki Yuasa’s work and the subtle narrative differences between implicit and explicit queerness

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for Devilman Crybaby (2018) and Ping Pong (2014)!!! You’ve been warned.

The main entries in the AniGay Guide to Lupin the Third will tackle entire seasons of the show, but I’ll also be stopping along the way to spotlight certain episodes that I feel are representative of Lupin III’s overall approach to queer storytelling and therefore deserve close queer readings of their very own. “One Chance to Breakout” (Part 1, episode 4), which pretty much exists to compare Lupin’s relationships with Jigen and Fujiko, is the first such episode. Definitely go watch it before reading on!

So: After Zenigata successfully downs Lupin with a tranquilizer gun during a heist, Lupin decides…

Who Are We?

AniGay is a small group of good friends who love anime and care deeply about the multifaceted, nuanced ways in which it depicts queerness. Over the years, we’ve spent more time than it’s possible to quantify researching, analyzing, and conversing about queerness in anime together, and we’ve become frustrated with the tendency of popular discourse to reduce queerness to binary categories: “representation” (good or bad) and “canon” (yes or no). We think anime is, well, a whole lot gayer than that.

In my several-years-long experience hanging around anime discourse on the internet, I’ve found that any discussion of queerness in anime tends to begin with the same question: “But is it canon gay?”

“Canon” queerness is typically defined by a character doing any of the following:

  • Vocalizing their queer identity (i.e. saying “I’m [gay/trans/bisexual/asexual]” outright)
  • Vocalizing their queer romantic interest (i.e. saying “I love you” to a member of the same gender in a way that can only be interpreted as romantic; saying “that person is my [girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/lover]” about a member of the same gender)
  • Expressing certain types of physical affection…

The Many Queernesses of Lupin III

In the course of its five decades on-and-off the air, the Lupin III anime franchise has spanned some 300 episodes, 26 movie-length TV specials, a dozen theatrical releases, several OVAs, and the work of numerous directors, animators, and writers. And though it was only this year that an openly gay character was added to its recurring cast, Lupin the Third has been queer at least since 1971, back when the manga was first adapted into an anime.

Lupin the Third: Part 2 (1978)

But while some anime series have clear, consistent directorial visions that are reflected neatly in how they portray queerness, Lupin the Third is…

Elizabeth Simins

V. gay writer & illustrator living in Portland, OR with a large collection of comics & a small collection of cats. AniGay co-editor / LoGH-Icebergs co-author

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